data engineer

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Training the next generation’s data engineers

  • Education industry should look to collaboration to better train future generations.
  • Organizations have a pivotal role in growing cloud-savvy talent pool.

Data engineers are the lynchpin in meeting the exponential growth in data center needs in the Asia-Pacific region, representing a skillset that is a blend of expertise between hardware and software, and able to stand comfortably with a foot in both worlds. However, the industry is facing challenges, in that there are not enough talents for the job.

In Southeast Asia alone, over 40 million new digital consumers have joined the Internet economy in 2021, which is set to reach a US$1 trillion gross merchandise value economy by 2030. As market demands grow stronger, data center owners are also looking to achieve build cycles of six to nine months — a considerably shorter lead time compared to the traditional timeline of 12 to 18 months.

As it stands, Singapore is already a hot favourite for companies looking to build data centers, and the Philippines has stepped up its game to become a potential big name in hyperscale data centers in the region.

According to Andrew Sklar, head of AWS Training and Certification in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), Amazon Web Services, the APJ region is currently riding a wave of innovation, in turn becoming heavily reliant on a digital workforce that is able to meet the rising demand for cloud computing.

“The region’s prosperity requires a strong digital workforce and tech professionals with relevant and current digital skills to keep up with the pace of change,” said Sklar in an interview with Tech Wire Asia.

Additionally, research from AlphaBeta shows that the need for advanced cloud computing and data skills is expected to triple by 2025, while the number of workers requiring the ability to design and refine new cloud architectures is expected to grow 36% per year from today’s levels to 2025, the highest across all digital skills.

However, the question remains – just how can the regional talent pool, which needs time for training and upskilling, catch up enough to narrow this gap between supply and demand?

Sklar shared that AWS is deeply invested in addressing this skills challenge, seeking to empower learners at all levels to rapidly build cloud skills and thus close the skills gap, with over 2.5 million people trained across the region since 2017.

Is the education industry ready for educating industry-ready data engineers?

Andrew Sklar, Head of AWS Training and Certification in Asia Pacific and Japan

According to Sklar, there has been a shift over the past several years toward virtual and digital training, and the desire to build specific skills in hours rather than over the course of several years.

“However, every learner is different, and so the training industry needs to provide a range of solutions to meet learners where they are. The training industry needs to address the skills gap problem with multiple programs, from multiple angles, and consider the variety of potential learners,” said Sklar.

He also shared that, beyond traditional learners, namely students, there exists a workforce that can be upskilled to help meet the demand in data center talents among the non-traditional talent pool, a group that is not traditionally where data center companies would look for talent.

“To reach non-traditional learners, we need to think beyond the usual training approaches. AWS re/Start is one example of how we are doing that,” said Sklar. AWS re/Start is a free, full-time, skills development program that prepares unemployed or underemployed individuals for careers in cloud computing. The program taps into a new talent pool to help people who otherwise may not be part of the cloud skills talent pipeline.

The industry also has to be ready to prepare the next generation of cloud professionals for cloud careers in general, not just to be data engineers, and one way would be to collaborate with organizations and companies in the industry, not just in training the students, but the trainers and educators as well.

Sklar shared that AWS collaborates with higher education institutions, non-profits, workforce development organizations, governments, and employers. Also, the organization provides higher education institutions around the world with a cloud computing curriculum that prepares students for industry-recognized certifications and in-demand cloud jobs.

“The curriculum helps educators stay at the forefront of AWS Cloud innovation so that they can equip students with the skills they need to get hired in one of the fastest-growing industries. The program aims to bridge the gap between industry and academia,” said Sklar.

In the long term, younger students, some of whom will be the data engineers of tomorrow, should be enabled with the opportunities to build foundational knowledge early on.

“Technology is always evolving, and so creating a culture of lifelong learning for the current and future workforce can help the region keep pace with the latest innovations,” said Sklar.

According to more research by AlphaBeta, cloud architecture design skills will be critically important for Asia Pacific workers over the next five years.

“Aspiring cloud architects should focus on learning how to design resilient, high-performing, secure, and cost-optimized cloud architectures, and boost their knowledge of data analytics, security, and machine learning,” added Sklar.

The role of the organizations

However, the onus was not just on the talents themselves to build these skills, but for the organizations to play their part as well. Organizations have a role to play in terms of removing barriers for workers to take training.

“Organizations can not digitally transform by pushing a button and letting the cloud take over. Regardless of company size or industry, empowering teams to innovate is critical for business growth and development,” noted Sklar.

Offering his advice, Sklar said that organizations should think about upskilling at the start of their cloud journey in order to transform the business effectively. At the same time, employees should be given the time and the resources to build skills, which would enable them, and the organizations, to get the most out of the cloud.

“In particular, large organizations undergoing cloud transformation projects need to be proactive about workforce development. To remove barriers and help employees build skills, I recommend establishing a visible executive sponsor to encourage learning, setting tangible goals to balance the need for training against other priorities, a cultivating a culture of learning across the organization, not just for IT staff,” said Sklar.